"Dirty deal?" - Gabriel secretly met Erdoğan on Yücel's release

Friday Feb. 16, 2017 will go down in history as the day Turkey's judiciary showed how fully subordinated it was to the country's repressive government. 

Two major events that day centred around jailed journalists. Three prominent senior journalists, the brothers Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, were sentenced (along with three others) to "aggravated life imprisonment" by a Turkish court over allegations of 'inciting the 2016 coup attempt', and a German-Turkish reporter, Deniz Yücel, kept in Turkish jail for a year, was released pending trial;

The sudden release of Deniz Yücel, Turkey correspondent for the Die Welt daily, exposed new dimensions of what some observers of Turkey have called a worrisome "hostage diplomacy".

Yücel was kept mainly in solitary confinement for 366 days pending an indictment, and was only released after intense, top secret negotiations between the German government and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself.

His sudden release without any proper judicial process seemed as puzzling as his arrest a year ago, and led to the conclusion that the Turkish judiciary was acting as an extension of an autocratic power, having been stripped of whatever remained of its independence.

The so-called "traffic of secret diplomacy" emerged as interesting in itself. The prestigious German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Saturday that preceding Yücel's release, Germany's FM, Sigmar Gabriel met with Turkish President Erdoğan secretly to secure Yücel's release.

What happened behind closed doors? Was there horse trading based on Yücel's freedom?

Yavuz Baydar, Editor of Ahval, talked to his colleague, Christiane Schlötzer, Deputy Features Editor (and former Turkey correspondent) with Süddeutsche Zeitung, who co-wrote the story.